Moving from ‘Guidance’ to Leadership in HR

As an HR professional, executives may “lean on you” for guidance. They may “pick your brain” and ask you to “consult” on key matters facing an organization.

But how can someone in HR truly lead and influence an organization? It’s not always easy, but HR leaders can have a prominent and meaningful role in decision making.

“HR professionals are feeling right now like they don’t have a lot of credibility,” says Natasha Bowman, JD SPHR, and founder of Performance ReNEW, a leadership and HR consulting firm in New York. “We feel like sometimes we are there for consultation and guidance, but aren’t decision makers.”

There is, however, a sense that HR professionals are increasingly involved in strategic decisions. The rise in high-profile harassment allegations has also created a new focus on the critical role of HR.

“Now is a great time because we do have peoples’ attention,” Bowman says. “Organizations are looking for that guidance and now is our time to regain credibility and respect.”

Bowman will speak on June 19 at the SHRM 2018 Annual Conference and Exposition, offering a presentation titled, “Tips on How to Lead and Influence When You Think You Have No Power.”

She offers some tips on how HR professionals can move out of the “consulting” role and into a place where they are heard and respected by higher-ups in an organization.

They include:

Be Prepared – Bowman says that when trying to sway an organization’s leadership, HR pros must come armed with as much information as possible. HR must know the “what” and “why” of every situation. “We just can’t walk in and say, ‘this is just not working,’’’ she says. “We really need to outline how this decision helps the bottom line and is in line with strategic goals.”

Form a Team – It helps to have colleagues who can stand behind you when making a pitch to leadership. They can back up your key points and provide supporting evidence when needed. “It’s much harder for an organizational leader to say no to a mass of people,” Bowman says. “If you have to give bad news to a leader, who else can you collaborate with to deliver that message and mitigate some of that resistance?”

Anticipate Pushback – You must know in advance from whom you may receive a negative response and what to do next. This goes along with being prepared. “Have a solution to everything,” Bowman says. “You want to walk out of there with confidence that you have given them every piece of information they need so that they can’t say no.”

Be Proactive – Bowman says that traditionally, HR pros are great at reacting to problems. They are less confident when to comes to anticipating and preventing them. She is hopeful that there is a shift in mindset that will allow HR to get out in front of organizational hazards. “Unfortunately, we are still in kind of a reactive phase,” she says. “I think that one day we will get there…I am seeing more calls from companies saying, ‘we don’t have any issues, but I do want to bring you in here and see if we can get our managers some training.’”

Use Both Logic and Emotion – There are times when an HR pro must leverage emotions to get an executive on board with an idea or argument. But, there must also be sound business logic behind it.

“Sometimes you have to have [executives] look beyond themselves and look at the people,” Bowman says. That said, it’s crucial for an HR pro to know the answers to, “What are the undisputed facts of the situation. What hard data do you have? What analytical data do you have?”

Natasha Bowman is one of many HRCI-certified professionals headlining the SHRM conference, June 17-20 in Chicago. Also, be sure to visit HRCI at Booth #1340.